I finally had a chance to finish all of the stories by my co-authors in There Will Be War: Volume X. With apologies to my other co-authors, I didn’t actually receive my author’s copy until about 24 hours before it went live on Amazon. Then the holidays hit. And then John C. Wright sent me a manuscript, and I got a little sidetracked.
I must say, though, I am blown away by this collection. I am absolutely honored to have my own piece set beside these other contenders. There is not a single weak piece in this collection. Seriously. I make a few nitpicks about some of them below. This should not be taken in any way to mean that I didn’t enjoy them.
I did definitely enjoy some more than others – but I can almost guarantee that your experience will be different. Ever story in here is strong enough that somebody will consider it to be his favorite. Heck, two poor, deluded souls even thought my own story was the best in the collection, for which I’m very grateful but I ask you to please stop smoking crack.
Below the fold are my own thoughts on the individual stories for any who would like to read them. There are no huge spoilers here, but neither is it fully spoiler free. Proceed at your own risk.
- The Man Who Wasn’t There by Gregory Benford
Given the timeliness of this story it’s utterly fascinating that it was accepted for the anthology months ago – and even moreso that it was written years ago. The way it mirrors into the events in Paris are highly reminiscent of the way that Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor mirrored the 9/11 attacks – seven years before they happened.This story has been mentioned by many as their favorite of the collection. Still, I have to agree with another reviewer that I read (unfortunately, I can’t recall who). This would be an absolutely amazing prologue to a book, and I really want to read that book. But as a standalone story – on the merits of story alone – I call it good, even great, but not my favorite of the collection. On the merits as an examination of warfare, however, it’s top notch.
- Seven Kill Tiger by Charles W. Shao
To put it bluntly, this story scares the pants off of me. I could absolutely see a scenario similar to this unfolding. And if it does, the human race is damned. Again, as an examination of the future of warfare – perhaps a nearer future than we would like – this is top notch.As a story, though, it’s not my favorite. Not because the story itself is bad – it isn’t, in any way – but because it’s so darned depressing. That’s not the author’s fault at all, however. It’s the nature of the topic.
- The 4GW Counterforce by William S. Lind and LtCol Gregory A. Thiele, USMC
This strong essay on 4th generation warfare makes two very important arguments. First, that ground forces are still absolutely essential. Second, that the European approach to Light Infantry is superior to the American approach. That ground forces are still necessary is somewhat obvious. The second argument isn’t, but Lind and Thiele make a compelling case. A very interesting read.
- Battle Stations by Ben Bova
Wow. Just wow.Though I’ve long been aware of his status as a giant of the industry, I don’t think I’ve actually read any of Ben Bova’s works before. This story has made me realize that this has to change. Battle Stations is a gripping adventure from beginning to end, and it carries some interesting science fiction ideas as well. This is my personal favorite fiction piece of the collection.
- The War Memorial by Allen M. Steele
My hat is absolutely off to Mr. Steele for how much he managed to convey in so few words. This story is short – a mere eight screens of text on my Kindle. But those eight screens pack a whallop. You will feel for Giordano. Nothing burns on the moon.
- Rules of Engagement by Michael Flynn
Of the fiction pieces, this might well be the one that had me thinking the most afterward. Not about the cool sci-fi technology in the story (there’s that). Not about the cool shoot out (there’s that, too). But about a very simple question: how do you know you’re the good guy?
- War and Migration by Martin van Creveld
An excellent essay on the interplay between mass immigration and war. Perhaps the most relevant piece in this collection to current events. This essay alone is a must read. Dr. van Creveld once again shows why he’s one of Israel’s most prominent historians.
- The Last Show by Matthew Joseph Harrington
Who doesn’t love a great escape story? And this one is awesome. Ballsy, over the top, plausible, and with a great twist at the end.
- Flashpoint: Titan by Cheah Kai Wai
This story struck me for how similar it was to my own entry (The Fourth Fleet) while being completely different at the same time. Whereas my story deals with Americans, the focus on the Japanese crew of the Takao brings an intensely different flavor – a very distinctly Japanese flavor, that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s studied Bushido. I enjoyed this story immensely, not the least for seeing an entirely different perspective on some of the very same topics I’d written about.
- War at the Speed of Light by Col Douglas Season, USAF, ret
My first reaction upon reading this story was that my take on what happened to DMSP-13 is far more plausible than some of my critics have been willing to accept – and more plausible even than I’d thought. Beyond that, I hadn’t realized that the current state of directed energy weapons was so advanced. The future is upon us, that’s for sure.
- Boomer by John DeChancie
The training methods described in this story are definitely coming some day, and I imagine they’d be quite effective. I found the ending to be quite predictable. However, that’s my only complaint. It was a fun read despite that.
- The Deadly Future of Littoral Sea Control by Commander Phillip E. Pournelle, U.S. Navy
I found this essay to be deeply informative, and I agree strongly with his fundamental premise: the US Navy needs a strong balance of ships of all sizes. Concentrating on either all big ships or all small ships is a mistake. And our current balance of forces is most likely incorrect. But then, it always is, isn’t it?
- The Fourth Fleet by Russell Newquist
Since this was my own story, I’ll leave it to the reader to judge the merits of it. I feel like I succeeded quite well at some of what I set out to do with the story, and less well at other parts of it. But overall, I’m pleased with how it came out – especially as it’s one of my first published works. A small tidbit for the readers: my original plot for this story involved the same basic setup, but would’ve been told from the point of view of a man captured by the pirates. My original title was, “The Dread Pirate Roberts.” That version of the story just wasn’t working. ” The Fourth Fleet” is the result.
- Canny by Brian J. Noggle
Poetry just isn’t my thing. This is no slight against Mr. Noggle, nor his poem – which I did appreciate for its send up of Kipling. It is, however, a very appropriate addition to this collection.
- What Price Humanity? by David VanDyke
This story takes a genre classic and stands it… well, not quite on its head. More like on its side. This is another one where I saw the ending coming. Still, Mr. VanDyke does touch on what – in my opinion – may turn out to be the only form of AI that’s actually ever viable. More importantly, he touches on the ethics of what that would entail. Another one that will make you think.
- Flush and FFE by Lt Col Guy R. Hooper, USAF, ret. and Michael L. McDaniel
Every single general in the US armed forces should stop what they’re doing right now and read this essay. In my not so humble opinion, this should be official doctrine for the use of precision munitions. While all of the essays in this collection are strong, this is the one that caught me most by surprise and really gave me something new to chew on. Absolutely brilliant. In case you couldn’t tell, my personal favorite of the non-fiction.
- Among Thieves by Poul Anderson
Centuries of development and light years of distance don’t change the simple fact that if you don’t look after your allies, eventually they won’t be allies anymore. A story of a desperate leader pushed to desperate measures, playing his cards very close to his chest. I enjoyed the way that this story showed that fundamentally, people never change.
- Fly by Night by Larry Niven
Once more space pirates are a theme here. Because let’s be honest – who doesn’t love space pirates? I particularly enjoyed the way that the protagonists had to work through a desperate situation with extremely limited resources, using their cunning to get through it. Loads of fun – and bonus points for the Batman reference.
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